ITHACA, N.Y.—The City of Ithaca announced Friday that a spotted lantern fly –– a species that can wreak havoc on local greenery –– was found in the Fall Creek neighborhood and is now asking residents to stay vigilant in order to prevent a major infestation.

According to a press release sent by the city, the insect was found in the Ithaca Falls portion of the neighborhood.

The city did not specify how many flies were discovered or if there is an actual infestation, saying that the number of lantern flies in Ithaca could be very small. City officials however did ask for the public’s assistance and vigilance to help protect the community from an agricultural standpoint.

“Spotted Lantern Fly is a non-native insect that feeds on a wide range of trees, especially liking Tree of Heaven,” the city’s announcement said. “In large populations, they can cause damage to trees of multiple species in residential settings, but more importantly for this region, they are an economically damaging pests of vineyards and orchards.”

The lantern fly is native to Asia but came to the United States in 2014. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are not dangerous to humans and are not known to attack or sting. It is unknown if they are poisonous to ingest. They now exist in several states in the mid-Atlantic U.S.

“The spotted lanternfly does not bite or sting and is not a threat to people or pets, said Judy Gangloff-Kaufman, a Cornell University Senior Extension Associate in the Department of Entomology. “Large numbers of SLF, while not dangerous to humans or animals, can create a mess when they feed by excreting honeydew on surfaces in backyards, parks, on cars and places where people are active. Sugary honeydew attracts ants and yellowjackets and is a base for the growth of unsightly sooty mold. Residents will want to be extra vigilant watching for this invasive insect. Individual and commercial travelers alike should be aware that there’s the potential to spread this insect to new areas without knowing it. Adult spotted lanternfly can end up in vehicles and the egg masses can be laid on virtually anything. It’s important to inspect anything that you load into your vehicle.”

Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com